Diagnosis and Treatment of Hand and Wrist Tendonitis in Wake County

What is Hand and Wrist Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is the swelling and irritation of a tendon caused by injury or overuse. Hand and wrist tendonitis can lead to weakness, inflammation, swelling, and pain in the hand or wrist. Two common problems that can arise in the tendons of the hand and wrist are inflammation and tenosynovitis, which is the inflammation of the lining of the tendon sheath. Proper treatment for hand and wrist tendonitis will ensure that you can continue your daily activities comfortably and safely.

Older woman holding wrist

Common Types of Hand and Wrist Tendonitis

The most common forms of hand and wrist tendonitis are: 

  • DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis. The most common type of tenosynovitis disorder, which causes pain and swelling in the tendon sheath of the tendons in the thumb.
  • Trigger finger or trigger thumb. A type of tenosynovitis where the tendon sheath becomes inflamed and thickened, making it hard to bend or straighten the finger or thumb. The affected finger may lock or “trigger” suddenly.

Causes of Hand and Wrist Tendonitis

The cause of tendonitis and tenosynovitis is often not known, but these conditions and their associated inflammation are usually triggered by strain, overuse, injury, or repetitive movements. The development of tendonitis in the hand and wrist may also be related to other medical conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Gout
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thyroid issues
  • Infection

Symptoms of Hand and Wrist Tendonitis

Being aware of your hand and wrist health and knowing what symptoms to look out for is key to finding relief from tendonitis and other related injuries. Although the main indicators of tendonitis in the wrist are pain and swelling, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Reduced strength
  • Inability to bear weight
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle fatigue and cramping
  • Tearing, popping, or snapping
  • Bruising and warmth

How are Hand and Wrist Tendonitis Diagnosed?

First, your doctor will conduct a physical examination and review your medical history. They will check for:

  • Tenderness by applying pressure to the hand, wrist, and forearm
  • Flexibility and range of motion 
  • Swelling and/or bruising in the wrist, hand, or forearm

Then, your doctor will ask you questions about your injury, such as the onset of pain and other symptoms, trauma or injury to the wrist area, the occurrence of muscle spasms or cramps in the forearm or hand, and decreased strength in the hand. If more information is needed, your doctor may order specific tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Finkelstein’s test. This test includes making a fist with the fingers covering the thumb and then bending the wrist toward the little finger. Pain on the thumb side of the wrist is an indication of tendonitis in the wrist area. 
  • Ultrasound. An ultrasound can be performed at different angles of the wrist. This test provides helpful insights into the affected tendons and their surrounding soft tissues. 
  • MRI. An MRI of the wrist is performed when the doctor wants to evaluate the tendons as well as their surrounding structures, such as bones and cartilage.

Treatment for Hand and Wrist Tendonitis at Raleigh Orthopaedic

Nonsurgical Treatment

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In most cases of hand and wrist tendonitis, non-surgical treatments can be used to promote healing. Patients typically recover from tendonitis injuries in a few days to weeks, depending on the severity. Some chronic cases may take up to two months for full recovery. Non-surgical treatments for hand and wrist tendonitis include:

  • Immobilization: Placing the hand and wrist in a splint or brace is usually the first treatment step. By resting the tendon, the inflammation should decrease.
  • Rest:. Applying ice to the affected area in 20-minute intervals can help to minimize swelling and stimulate blood flow to the affected area.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication: Over-the-counter medication, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, will help to relieve symptoms of pain but also decrease inflammation and swelling of the soft tissues. 
  • Hand therapy: Hand therapists use many techniques, from stretching and strengthening exercises to electrical stimulation and ultrasound. In addition, a hand therapist will often fabricate custom splints and supports to help control movements of the hand and wrist. 
  • Cortisone injection: Cortisone is a more powerful anti-inflammatory treatment option, given by injection to the site of inflammation.

Surgical Treatment Options

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If conservative treatment methods have failed to provide relief from symptoms for 3 to 6 months, surgery may be required to treat hand and wrist tendonitis. Surgery for this type of injury is typically performed under local anesthesia. Your surgeon will make a small incision in your hand, wrist, or finger to locate and repair the damaged tendon. However, if the tendon damage is more complex, the procedure may be carried out under general anesthesia. Since the procedure is minimally-invasive, patients are allowed to go home the same day, experience a quicker recovery time, and have a lower risk of side effects and complications.

Recovery from Surgery for Tendonitis

After surgery to treat tendonitis in the hand and wrist, it will likely take between six and twelve weeks for a full recovery. In the days and weeks after your procedure, your wrist and thumb will likely feel swollen and you may feel tingling near the incision site. You will likely be required to wear a splint on your hand for one to four weeks after surgery. Your stitches will be removed anywhere from one to two weeks after your procedure.

Preventing Hand and Wrist Tendonitis

In order to prevent hand and wrist tendonitis, it is important to make sure you are not overusing the tendons in your wrists. Before any physical activity involving the arms or hands, be sure to take time to stretch out your wrists. During such activities, it is important to stop and take breaks to make sure the wrists are not being overworked. If recommended by a doctor, a wrist splint or brace may be used to provide proper support and alignment and help you avoid injury. Quitting or avoiding smoking as much as possible can also help fend off tendonitis and other orthopedic injuries.

Hand and Wrist Experts at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic

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At Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic, our hand surgeons work closely with our on-site Certified Hand Therapists to treat a wide range of hand and wrist injuries and conditions, including tendonitis. We will make sure you understand each step of your care plan and answer any questions you have along the way. Contact us today to learn more or book an appointment online at one of our convenient orthopedic clinic locations in Wake County.